My Local Cruise Night Is the Total Opposite of Monterey Car Week and It’s Great
California might be the hub of car culture in America, but we have a lot of fun in the heartland, too.
I'm from the middle of the country where car culture is wrapped up in every part of life. You're just as likely to find a Chevrolet bowtie on a buddy's arm as you are on a camo hat at Walmart. That type of brand loyalty runs deep in the Ozarks where I was born and raised, but even then, we can all get along at least once a year as folks descend on Jay, Oklahoma for the town's annual cruise night.
Now, there's still plenty of heckling, but it's all in good fun. And not to paint too dire of a scene but it's one of the last events like it, at least within a couple hours' drive of my house. It presents a special opportunity, then, to see old-school gearheads in their split-bumper Camaros line up behind computer-savvy teenagers who are just as stoked to show off their EG Civic hatches. Regardless of what drives past, the crowds chant incessantly and beg drivers to "light 'em up!"
Indeed, burnouts are encouraged by everyone, from kids to the 50-year-olds who had to sit this year out because their car's under the knife (again). Plenty of people oblige, whether their ride can lay down a nasty skid or only chirp the tires. That's part of the beauty, if you ask me.
Go back year after year and you'll recognize quite a few builds that roll through. I'm pretty sure I've seen that Cummins-swapped Squarebody Chevy more than once, and there's a Plum Crazy Purple Dodge Charger that actually had a for-sale sign behind the windshield this time.
What better place to advertise your ride than a place like this?
It's also a boon for the community. A little less than 2,400 people live in the town of Jay, and the yearly cruise night drives a lot of business to nearby shops and restaurants. There are tents set up on the square, where you'll always find church youth groups and the high school band putting on some sort of fundraiser. And even though this might sound like the town where Footloose was set, there's a live band playing music the whole time—usually some '80s rock covers.
That's what I love most about it, really. My grandpa brings a big group of friends with him every year and grills the cheapest hot dogs that taste better than they have any right to. It's hot here in August—high 90s and 85% humidity feels normal—but people still come out.
It's pretty much the opposite of Monterey Car Week, and for us, that's perfectly fine. Cruise Night is about having a good time with the ones we love the most, whether that's friends, family, or a stranger you just met talking about 440 big blocks.
The cars are pretty neat, too.
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